How many times has a politician gone to your neighborhood or community and told you they understand your challenges and have just the solution? Sometimes they mean it, sometimes they don’t. Often the solution involves giving them your vote or your money.
Andrew Yang is urging American Jews to follow him in abandoning the two-party system. Part of his pitch claims that doing so will help fight antisemitism. His solution is about what you’d expect.
Yang is calling for a new political party. Except it’s not a party at all (at least not yet) – it’s really a political action committee, a fundraising vehicle. Lots of politicians have them.
In an interview with Jewish Insider, Yang tailored his appeal to Jews with an argument built around combating antisemitism. The two-party system is “very vulnerable to authoritarianism,” he says. “The last thing that you’d want is certain points of view that are in a subset of the Democratic Party to become more prevalent.”
But his proposed solution bears little relationship to the problem. A quick look at Europe, where many countries have multi-party systems, but antisemitism is still on the rise, puts that notion to rest.
Yes, antisemitism exists on the left and the right – though Yang has nothing to say about the right. And the two parties are not equal: Donald Trump and the GOP openly condoned the blatant antisemitism of the “very fine people” in Charlottesville in 2017 and the “patriots” who stormed the Capitol on January 6. Meanwhile, when we’ve seen antisemitic language or tropes used by Democrats, party leaders have called it out, and most of the offending elected officials have accepted an opportunity to learn and grow.
Even if he’s not asking for votes, Yang’s “solution” amounts to little more than “follow me.” It’s enough to make you wonder if his real goal is, say, selling books.
Yang’s cynical effort to strengthen his political brand by claiming to fight antisemitism doesn’t surprise those of us who watched his campaign for mayor of New York City. Yang spent months trying to curry favor with a couple of small but politically powerful Hasidic groups, promising at a forum hosted by my organization, New York Jewish Agenda, to continue a de Blasio administration practice of allowing religious schools to avoid teaching basic secular studies like math, English, and science, in violation of state law.
When Yang says he’s motivated to address antisemitism by what the article calls his “newfound relationships with Jewish leaders in Brooklyn and Queens,” he’s not including the vast majority of us who grew up with secular education or associate with a diverse array of congregations and other expressions of our Jewish identity and values. If you’re not part of an Orthodox group that supported him for mayor this year, Andrew Yang doesn’t seem as interested in hearing what you have to say about antisemitism.
Let’s be clear: all Jews are Jews. Many of our communities have been targeted by antisemitism, and many of us are concerned about the rise in antisemitic incidents. And even if we don’t agree on the causes or solutions, we’re all still entitled to participate in the conversation about combating it.
Yang is welcome to contribute to that conversation too, just as he’s free to argue against the two-party system and shoehorn in antisemitism. But he doesn’t get to set the rules of engagement. Antisemitism is a challenging and disturbing issue. The entire Jewish community deserves authentic strategies and ideas to combat it and leaders who take it seriously. We will not allow it to be used as a political football.
Yang gets one thing right: the parallels between antisemitic and anti-Asian hate are real, and we should fight them – and all forms of hate – together. We have the tools in our toolbox to do that.
Let’s stand together to collectively call out hateful behavior anywhere we see it. Let’s expand anti-bias education in our schools so young people can recognize and understand prejudice. Let’s enforce hate crime laws, so communities get justice after violent incidents. And let’s reform our social media platforms to stop the spread of misinformation and hate.
Not on that list: ditching the two-party system.